In the last segment, back in December, I talked a lot about the Certified Recovery Community and what that could look like. I want to step back for a minute and reinforce an understanding of the need.
I was able to watch the film Generation Found a couple of weeks ago. This film captures the need for, and the obvious success of, Recovery High Schools. While there are only 54 of them in the United States, according to the film, this is something that should be available to every student that finds themselves involved in a drug and/or alcohol problem that cannot escape without help, and chooses the path of recovery.
Listening to the teens in the film discuss the inability to stay clean after being returned from rehab to the same school environment they were in before rehab, makes it all too clear that changing friends, places, and things related to using includes school. The fact is, the students all said that not only were they around other kids high there, but that is where they got their drugs.
It is the drug free and recovery based environment provided by the Recovery High School, a non-judging, caring, understanding environment that not only allowed the teens to succeed in class work, but empowered them to excel beyond what many believed they could.
It is the community aspect, the closeness of identification, and empathy, that enables these addicts to experience recovery and maintain recovery for the long term.
I believe that adults need that sense of community and identification as much as teens and young adults. In virtually all of the fellowships (AA, NA, CR, etc.) those with longer sustained recovery have closed their social circle to include only those they know in their fellowship. This is part of the key to their success.
In one study known as “Rat Park” a rat was given access to drugs while in a solitary social environment in its cage and used the drugs over and over, but when moved into a social setting of several rats, no longer used the drugs.
This may be an over simplification of the experiment, but then Rats are over simple compared to humans and the human life experience, but it makes a point. Community makes a difference.
That may lead to the question, “Why, then, do people start using at school or elsewhere when they are in a social setting of a community of peers?”
The answer is in the individual. One of the big recurring statements you will hear from almost all recovering addicts is that prior to their beginning of active addiction, they felt different, alone in a room full of people, not good enough.
This understanding points us to a few of potential conclusions:
- Early identification of salient personality traits can offer a pathway to more effective prevention efforts.
- Helping those stuck in the grips of active addition feel that they may not be as alone as they feel can attract more addicts into recovery.
- Creating environments for those in recovery to gather and maintain a sense of community and belonging can promote more successful long term recovery for those who utilize the resource.
I referred to an article in my newsletter of October 26, 2016.
In a New York Times article, written September 29, 2016, Maia Szalavitz discusses Preventure, a new approach to identifying youth that are at risk of addiction, which has not only resulted in dramatic reductions in addiction and substance abuse, but lowered the incidence of depression and reported anxiety in schools in Europe, Australia, and Canada.
That article, “The 4 Traits That Put Kids at Risk for Addiction” is a worthwhile read and gives a deeper insight into this discussion. This is a project with proven results and we need to take out lead from it.
Those in Active Addiction
One the sayings heard often in the rooms of 12 step programs is, “We will love you until you can love yourself”. This is an important fact. It is love that ultimately draws those in addiction to a successful attempt at recovery. Love doesn’t judge, but welcomes, gives hope, and helps break down the barrier of isolation that keeps most addicts stuck in a cycle they don’t understand. Hearing success stories from people who have had the same feeling they have (Identification), is the beginning.
Creating Environments of Community
Like the Recovery High Schools that are now finding success, maintaining a Recovery Community Center, could have a huge impact on those who begin a journey of recovery and have to change “people, places, and things” in their life.
It is one of our goals, to open one or more of these in our region. An old motel, defunct school, or abandoned factory that could be revitalized and repurposed with a large TV room, a game room with pool tables, ping pong, card tables; a meeting room or two that could rented to the various fellowships for 12 step meetings, counselling offices for peer recovery support specialists to meet people in, an outdoor barbeque area. You get the idea by now I’m sure. There could even be a coffee counter, literature sales area, and a recovery activities planner. A computer room for study, job application filing, and more would be helpful too.
While there is still much that can be added to the discussion of a Recovery Community (the community at large being supportive to an environment of recovery), and definitions of what it should all look like and how it could all function, we can only do our share and hope that we touch enough with our ideas, our message, and our goals to gain the help we need to make it all happen.
We do already have many willing partnerships; organizations and agencies willing to roll up their sleeves and lift along with us.
Today we are working with Health Departments, Rehab facilities, State and Local Agencies, Coalitions, and other Non-Profit organizations to change from a running dialogue to running a race. The missing ingredient is community involvement and community action.
My next installment will be my presentation of a plan that could help turn the tide, along with a description of a current effort that supports this plan.
Today I will leave you with another article I just read written by a County Sheriff, that runs parallel to my position.
Please take the time to read this one, and I will remain excited to present some steps that can make a difference in my next installment.
As always, feel free to email me with your comments or concerns.